Things happen slowly sometimes. I mean really, really slowly. Usually when you’re excited or anxious about something. Time is relative, I suppose, but recently I’ve been trying extra hard to be patient. It’s a virtue after all.
I worked for a few years at a counsellor with Cruse Bereavement Care and during a debrief session with my supervisor one day was surprised to hear him congratulate me on my ability to be patient. Apparently it was one of the main skills I’d shown with a number of clients who were facing difficult loss. I was surprised, mainly because I’d thought the opposite; I wondered if I was showing frustration with a lack of progress. But my supervisor saw something in me that I didn’t recognise, and I’ve always remembered it. Always remembered, too, that grief itself cannot be rushed. Nor can recovery of any kind: slow and steady is the key.
On a smaller but no less urgent scale, the editing process for my memoir has taken longer than I thought. Apart from the occasional (awkwardly nonchalant) nudges in his direction, I’m learning to accept that my editor is busy and that these things take time. And when the book shows up in an email with over two hundred edit marks, it feels like I’m back to square one when I dive in. Who said writing is re-writing? But in general the whole process has been both challenging and fun. And it still hasn’t really sunk in that I have an actual agent and an actual editor who are championing my book. It has taken upwards of twenty years to get to this point so it’s an accomplishment in itself and I’m still basking in it. The journey got me here. And that’s it isn’t it? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, it’s not the destination it’s the journey. Whatever happens next I’m loving the creative process; I’m learning a lot and small achievements along the way are worth celebrating.
There isn’t one big goal with fireworks at the end, it’s all grist to the creative mill. I’m riding along with the wind in my hair, up and down, sun and rain. Hop on!
"Always too eager for the
future, we pick up bad
habits of expectancy.
Something is always
approaching; every day
Till then, we say,"
Philip Larkin, Next Please
Sometimes I feel as if I’m always in a hurry, rushing from one task to the next with barely a breath between. What’s the rush? It’s as if I think something more important, or something better, is just around the corner – once the dishes are done, that is.
Like most children of the seventies I had a beloved collection of Ladybird books (they’re still on my shelves today, still beloved) and Aesop’s fables were a particular favourite. For here be villagers crying wolf, foxes without tails, geese atop golden eggs. And a tortoise who won the race. Needless to say most of Aesop’s clever morals passed me by for some time, I even identified more closely with the hare (I was a sprinter, so obviously it is the fastest who wins) and simply resolved never to fall asleep during a race and thus allow a slower contestant to overtake.
But soon enough I worked it out: kindness often gets things done more quickly than force; it is wiser to be content with what you have. And the race is not always to the swift.
Slow and steady is the key. Like the pre-schoolers of Mischel’s Marshmallow Test in the early seventies at Stanford, we try to learn patience, delaying gratification so that appreciation follows. Rather than rushing through life trying to get to something else I can treasure small moments, listen to birdsong, maybe even enjoy washing the dishes. In short, I can be here. Now.
R.S. Thomas was right – life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is life and it is now. Likewise with lockdown easing, vaccine rollout, getting back to ‘normal’ – slow and steady wins the race. We’ll get there.
And waiting at the finish line will be a happy tortoise who reaches out his wrinkly hand to congratulate us on our slow journey and shared wisdom.